Dawson Stories
Page 3
Dawson, Navarro County, Texas


Community of Dawson

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Dawson, Texas.. .and Western Navarro County....... remained for centuries as nothing more than a wild expanse of prairie that lay on the edge of the Great Plains of North America.   It was an area that offered little vegetation except prairie grass and mesquite and occasional stands of scrub post oak on the almost level ground.  Water was often scarce and any large trees..pecan, willow, oaks, elms, and cottonwood... were to be found only on the banks of small creeks and branches that had cut scars through the fertile soils.

Buffalo, deer, elk, and antelope roamed free except when indian tribes came into the area to harvest sufficient meat to carry tribes through the year. Wild horses were, also, to be found in the area, but they were newcomers, decedents of animals brought to America by early Spanish explorers.

Territorial claims on the area had passed from one European nation to another until Mexico achieved independence and immigration to Texas began. Several "Empresarios" from the United States and from  Europe secured rights from the Mexican government to settle vast areas of Texas, Stephen F. Austin being one of the first and most notable.

Dawson's history actually began in "The Lowlands" of Southwest Scotland and Northwestern England, areas where waring clans had fought fierce battles, had developed an intense spirit of independence, and created a deep seated Christian faith twelve hundred   years before Dawson was organized.  It was in the 6th Century that St. Columba, a contemporary of St. Patrick, gathered a small band of troubadours and sailed from Bangor, Ireland to the coast of Scotland.  Their beginning Christian faith was expanded when John Calvin disowned the papacy of the Roman Catholic church and conveyed his attempt to recover the character or the New Testament church to a young man whose name was John Knox.

John Knox, a Scot, happened to have been in Geneva at the time and studied under John Calvin, ultimately returning to his home in Scotland and brought with him the tenants of Christianity espoused by Calvin.  Those tenants included...

1. Rejection of the monarchical episcopacy of the Catholic church
2. Each church..or Kirk..had Ruling Elders and a minister
3. Scholarship of all individuals was stressed
4. Missionary activity was demanded
5. Immorality was not to be tolerated

When James VI of England, formerly James I of Scotland, opened five counties of North Ireland for settlement many Scots who lived a short distance across the Irish Sea took advantage of the opportunity offered.  Thousands of Scotland's finest brought their families to Ireland, most choosing lands in Co. Down and Co. Antrim, areas nearest the Sottish coast.

The Scottish families who lived in North Ireland were industrious and soon developed a flourishing economy.  The flax industry boomed.  The Scots had brought sheep to Ireland and the wool industry expanded.  Every small cottage boasted a spinning wheel and a large weaving loom and the girls and women of the families became proficient in their use. Farming techniques of the Scots were far better than the crude efforts of the typical Irish.

Study of the early populations of central Co. Down...reveals an abundance of names found in the early history of Western Navarro County, Texas.    Names such as Hill, Lawrence, McCandless, Fullerton, Johnston, Williamson, McKeown, Harrison, Wilson, Thompson, Davidson, Floyd, Harris, Shaw, Adams, Lyle, Dickinson, Garner, Savage, Patterson, Murphy, Graham, Moore, McCulloch, Hull, Barnes, Wright, Love, McGaughey, McReynolds, Peden, McVeigh, Connor, Currie, Young, Ellis, Martin, Porter, Millar, Kelly, Kilgore, Gardiner, McMillin, Rea, Stewart, Parker, Hutchinson, Mills, Caskie, Sellar, Matthews, Fulton, Finley, and Dawson....to list a few.

John McCandless was typical of many who lived in North Ireland and whose families evantually settled in Western Navarro Co. Texas. John McCandles was born in 1750 in Co. Down.  He sailed from Belfast, June 5,1772 and arrived at New Castle, Delaware August 26, a voyage of eight-two days.  He lived for a few months in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Mechlenburg Co, North Carolina. It was said that  John McCandless was drafted into military service and served with distinction for three years in the Revolutionary War.  He began military service as a wagoner and, later, served as a mounted horseman.  He moved to Blount Co, Tennessee in 1799, but settled a few years later to Maury Co.  He lived his last years on a monthly pension of $23.33 and died c. 1840 at near ninety.


Dread Dawson had come to Southeast Mexican Texas in 1818 and settled sixty miles north of present day Beaumont.  He was, originally, from Georgia, but had migrated to southeast Alabama when the Creek Indian Wars were over and the Indians move out.  The family moved, again, in 1818 to an area sixty miles north of present day Beaumont, Texas.  The family lived there seven or eight years before moving north to the Robertson Colony centered around Fort Franklin and his son, Brit, settled a few years later in Western Navarro Co.  The Dawson family was said to have been from Greene Co. Georgia which was originally part of Richond Co.   The Dawsons had been there before 1790.  David Dawson, Richmond Dawson,  and Brittain Dawson who turned out to be Brit's grandfather.

The surprise came with the discovery that there were many, many other names associated with Western Navarro Co. a century later.  William Barron, Dr. George Graves, John Sidwell, Robert Parrish, Jean Hull, Martha McMillan, William Skinner, John Love, William C Lawrence, Henry McCullough, William Hoge, Robert Savage...on an on the list continued.    John Clemons married Ann Wilson in 1798.   And Michael Silbert, aJewish merchant with the same name as H Silbert who came to Dawson in the 1890's as a Jewish merchant.  Fullertons married Doves.  John Flint married Margaret Butler.There was Frederick Sims and Jim and  Lewis Lee.  There were name of Loveless, Walker, Wright, andHill.

The Spence Family was there in 1790.   They were traced to Illinois, to Missouri, to Western Navarro Co. where David Spence married a daughter of Brit Dawson.


The area of present day Dawson, Texas can trace its beginning to a group formed in the 1820's in Nashville, Tennessee when seventy prominent individuals of that state formed The Texas Association.  The base of operations was The Farmers and Merchants Bank in Nashville, a bank that had been formed primarily by members of the Robertson family and a young Tennessee politician whose name was Sam Houston.

The original intent of The Texas Association was to have the seventy members of the organization migrate to Texas and create an empire similar to what the Robertsons, Blounts, Seviers and others had created when the Tennessee Territory opened. Their intentions included recruiting doctors, attorneys, successful farmers, teachers, merchants, etc. rather than backwoodsmen and adventurers.

It was in the year 1825 that The Texas Association sent Robert Leftwich to Texas to confer with Mexican officials in an attempt to secure settlement rights similar to those given Stephen F. Austin.  Leftwich, in time, made arrangements with the Mexican government to settle eight hundred families in an area north of The Old San Antonio Road and generally between the Brazos and Trinity Rivers. The northern boundary did not appear to have been defined and included parts of present day Tarrant and Dallas Counties..and, Dawson, Texas.

Leftwich may or may not have known the extent of the land area included in the permission given him by the Mexican government, but it was huge.  At least twelve Texas counties...Robertson, Falls, Limestone, Leon, Freestone, McClennan, Hill, Johnson, Tarrant, Ellis, and Dallas...would be formed from the area.

Leftwich had been careful to obtain the rights of settlement in his own name rather than in the name of The Texas Association and when he returned to Nashville he offered to sell "HIS rights" to The Texas Association..and did..for $8,000.00.  The Texas Association went public on January l, 1826 and was prepared to offer vast spaces of cheap land for settlement. However, the Mexican government began changing laws adversely affecting settlement of the Texas area by Americans and interest in Texas waned. Migration to Texas decreased to a standstill.

Sterling Clack Robertson, a nephew of the President of the Farmers and Merchants Bank, had made a trip to Texas in 1825, perhaps, with Leftwich, and was impressed with what he had seen. He had been an employee of the bank, but was, perhaps, better known in South Middle Tennessee as a Land Broker. Sterling Clack Robertson was the son of Elijah Robertson and a nephew of General James Robertson.  His father and uncles had received huge land grants when the Tennessee Territory had first opened. Deeds recorded in South Middle Tennessee counties are filled with transactions where Sterling Clack Robertson bought or sold properties. He was especially active in Maury County, Giles County, Warren County, Marshall County, and Lincoln County, all adjacent counties in the Duck River area.  Those counties produced families with such names as Caskey, Richey, Davidson, Stewart, Hill, Matthews, Slaughter, Lawrence, McCandless. Dempsey, Cathy. Wright, Morgan, Stockard, Johnson, Barber...all names associated with early Western Navarro County.

Sterling Clack Robertson had served as Assistant Quartermaster to General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. During the years following the War of 1812 and into the early 1820', he was involved in banking and real estate transactions. He had married Francis King and their son, Elijah, was born in 1820. It was time to settle down, but he was filled with the same adventurous spirit that had led his father and uncles into the Tennessee Territory.  Their adventurous spirit had made them wealthy and politically powerful individuals in Tennessee.

Mexican Grants provided each family One League of Land..4428 acres of land plus 177 acres..A Labor..for farming purposes. The price for each League was $30.00. Farming land that was watered..adjacent to a creek or river...was $3.50 for each Labor.  Grazing land was priced at $2.50 for each labor.  Payments were in three installments..nothing down, one third payment the fourth year, one third the fifth, and one third the sixth year.

Sterling Clack Robertson viewed Texas as his opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his Father and Uncles and determined to carry through with the original plan of the Texas Association. He began to actively recruit families for the project. Robertson's determination was such that he sold some of his land holdings in Giles County, Tennessee to David and John McCandless and Robert Richey.  These families would join Robertson at a later time in Texas and become early settlers in the Dawson area.

The first contract issued by The Texas Association was to Robert Johnson of Maury Co. Tennessee....dated April 26, 1830.  Sterling Clack Robertson led Robert Johnson and an unknown number of others to the "Settlement Area" in 1830.  Many of that original group had been recruited from Maury Co, Giles Co., and Lincoln Co...all adjacent counties in Southern Middle Tennessee. That original group made the journey to Texas on horseback, traveling to Memphis, then through Little Rock, Arkansas...down to the old settlement at Nacogdoches..and over to an area that would later be known as Ft. Franklin...named for Robertson's home town.

Some of the earliest names found in deed records of the area were William Beasley who had obtained 4400 acres, "one league on Bedias Creek;" W. C. J. Hill, who claimed "one league on the waters of the Yegua;" Elisha Boren; David Love and his children, John C, Nancy,and Sam; and David Dawson.

Robertson returned to Tennessee, probably in the fall of 1830, and began more serious recruitment.  Robertson's second group assembled in Nashville on March 29, 1831 to begin the journey to Texas.  The horseback ride in 1830 must have made some unfavorable impression on Robertson and the 1831 trip was by water.  The group boarded the steamship, Criterian, at some point on the Tennessee River and traveled north to Smithland, Kentucky, a river port on the Ohio River. The group traveled down the Ohio..down the Mississippi..to New Orleans.

Schooners...sailing vessels with two or more masts..plied the waters between New Orleans and Texas on a regular basis.  The journey to Harrisburg...present day Houston, Texas...usually took seven to eight days depending upon weather.  Robertson and his group, probably, landed at the mouth of the Brazos and moved upstream on small flat bottomed boats that transported passengers and cargo up and down the Texas rivers.

The group may have stopped at San Felipe de Austin on their way upstream...the center of Stephen F. Austin's colony.  Another point to stop may have been Washington-on-the-Brazos where, six years later, sixty brave men would meet and construct the Declaration of Independence for Texas. Sterling Clack Robertson would be among them. The river journey ended at the ferry landing located at the point where the Old San Antonio Road crossed the Brazos River.  Robertson had, probably, arranged for wagons to be waiting at the ferry to move the new settlers the thirty or so miles to Fort Franklin.

Robertson continued to make trips to Tennessee, each time returning to Texas with more families.  He was in Tennessee in the fall of 1835 when Sam Houston...now in Texas and involved in the political turmoil there..issued a call for"Tennessee Volunteers."  The "Call for Volunteers" was printed in the Franklin, Tennessee newspaper on October 30, 1835.

Robertson returned to Texas that fall with one hundred and four families, and eight single men.  Sixty-one additional families were under contract and waiting in Tennessee for passage.  Robert Harve Matthews, aged twenty-one, had arrived at Fort Franklin on December l, l835.  His sister, aged twenty-three, had come with her husband of six months, a widower with three children, Francis Slaughter.  Slaughter may have been in the employe of Robertson and may have made his first trip to Texas in 183l.

Another sister, Martha (Patsy) Matthews and her family, were, probably, among the families waiting in Tennessee for passage and arrived at Fort Franklin at some point in 1836.  Her husband, a first cousin, James D. Matthews, ran for the office of Coroner on January 1, 1837..and won...24-23.  Robertson County was not heavily populated at the time.  The population in 1840 listed a total of nine-hundred-thirty-four persons...640 white, 294 black.

Robertson had known Sam Houston in Nashville and lost no time after his return to Fort Franklin forming a command for Houston's army.  Capt. Robertson and his group, including Robert Harve Matthews, joined Sam Houston on the west bank of the Colorado River where Houston had set up a training camp.

Most able bodied men had left the frontier settlements to serve in Houston's army and Indian groups took advantage of the opportunity to raid unprotected areas. Sam Houston learned of the raids and ordered Robertson and his men to return to Fort Franklin to protect the settlements. It was in the spring of that year that Elder Parker's small fort, located near the headwaters of "The Navasot", was attacked and children, including Cynthia Ann Parker, taken prisoner by the Indians.  Robertson and his men would obey the orders given, but they would miss San Jacinto by ten days.  The victory at San Jacinto resulted in independence for Texas and the formation of The Republic of Texas.

Spring Hill is said to have been the earliest settlement in present day Navarro County, but most students of Texas history are of the opinion that Melton's settlement and the settlement of Chambers Creek preceded Spring Hill. The Spring Hill claim is based on the assumption that Dr. George Washington Hill constructed a Trading Post cabin there in 1838.  However, Dr. Hill was busy from 1838 to 1844 serving as a member of the Texas Congress and as Secretary of War and Marine under both Presidents Houston and Anson Jones.  He..may..have visited the area in his duties as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, a part of his duty as Secretary of War, but no substantive record has been found that settles Dr. Hill in the area in 1838.

Walter P Lane, one of the last living survivors of the 1838 Battle Creek Massacre near Dawson, wrote from Marshall, Texas, May 18, 1885 and gave a detailed account of the days prior to and following the battle.  Gen. Lane made no mention of a Trading Post or of Dr. George Washington Hill.

More....Dr. Hill is listed on the Tax Rolls of Robertson County through 1848.  His name appears on the Navarro Tax Roll for the first time in 1849.  Based on those documents, Dr. Hill probably made the move to the Indian Springs area in 1848.  Regardless of "when" he came, Dr. Hill is considered "The Father of Spring Hill."  Other families who were among those early Spring Hill Area settlers were John Treadwell, David and Joshua Onstott, Thomas Williams, Simeon Meek, Fred K. Williams, Thomas Wright, Warren Sidwell, Elisha Wyman, William Cannon, and William Ritchie.  Others names include..Evans, Roberts, Graham, and The Lee Brothers.

Additional names included in the list by 1850 were...Jacob Faller, Sam Price, Thomas Morgan, Joseph Robertson, Robert Slaughter, Robert Harve Matthews, Louis Slayton, and Martha (Patsy) Matthews whose husband had died at Fort Franklin in August 1844.

The year 1838 is significant, however, in that twenty-four men, including Walter P Lane mentioned above, on a surveying mission from Fort Franklin had set up their camp near the Indian Springs in present day Western Navarro County.  Soon afterwards, a large party of Kickapoo Indians arrived and began to occupy a camping area near the springs.  They were said to be from Arkansas and were there for their annual Buffalo hunt. The indians were concerned and rightly so... that the presence of the surveyors would bring more settlers who would destroy their hunting ground and warned the surveyors to leave the area.

Several days later, the surveying party was working two to three miles west of the Indian Springs and was ambushed by the indians.  Seventeen members of the party were killed, several others severely wounded. The date was October 8, 1838 and the ambush was a mile or so northwest of present day Dawson.

Many versions of the Battle Creek Massacree have been handed down through the years.  One story stated that Susannah Cannon, wife of Britton Dawson, gathered bones of the dead surveyors in her apron and carried them to the "Twin Trunked Oak" under which the bones were buried.  Some historians have discounted that version based on the fact that Brit Dawson did not arrive in the area until 1847 and did not marry Sussana Cannon until 1848.

That story may have had some validity.  The Richey family had purchased Maury Co Tennessee land from Sterling Clack Robertson in 1831 and...may...have come to Ft. Franklin with the McCandless family in 1835.  Richey, who had married Sussana Cannon's mother, was already in the area when Brit Dawson arrived with his herd of cattle in 1847.  It is not known just how long the Richey family had been in the area, but they had, apparently been there for some time.  It is possible that they were living in the area in 1838 and that Sussana did, indeed, assist in collecting the bones of the dead.

Conflicts with indians in the area, oftimes under the leadership of Chief Jose Maria, sometimes called "Iron Eyes," continued for several years.  Jose Maria was not, from all reports, involved in the Battle Creek Massacree. One fight in 1839 became a hand to hand conflict.  Robert Harve Matthews, by then a Texas Ranger, and several others, had cornered some indian horse thieves in a Post Oak thicket at some unnamed location north of Fort Franklin.  Jose Maria had established an indian village on the west bank of the Brazos River at some point between present day Waco and Hillsboro, Texas

George Washington Hill married Robert Harve Matthews's sister c. 1847.  Minerva Catherine Matthews Slaughter's husband had died leaving her with three young children.  Hill soon moved his new family to a Trading Post at the Indian Springs and Robert Harve Matthews went with them.  The village that began to be constructed was some distance south of what later became the community of Spring Hill remembered by those living today.  That early village was built around Dr. Hill's Trading Post and the cemetery located on his land.   A dirt wagon trail that some called "The Cowhead Road" ran east and west on the north side of the cemetery and connected on the East with a north-south road that ran north to Richland Creek crossing and south to the Brit Dawson place.

A U. S. Post Office was established at the Trading Post in 1848 and George Hill was named Postmaster.  New families from Tennessee and other states began to arrive and the area around the springs was beginning to fill with people. Navarro County had been carved from Robertson County and Hill County, named for George Washington Hill, had been carved from Navarro County.

Population of Navarro County, Texas

1850 2190
1860 5996 173.8%
1870 8879 48%
1880 21702 144%
1890 26373 21.5%
1900 43874 66.3%
1910 47070 7.2%
1920 50624 7.5%
1930 60507 19.5%
1940 51308 (17.4%)
1950 39916 (28.5%)
1960 34,428 (13.9%)
1982 36,423 6.5%

It was in 1857 that Robert Harve Matthews paid George Washington Hill five hundred dollars for five hundred acres of land located a short distance north from the Trading Post. Hill had purchased the land five years earlier...fifteen hundred acres..for five hundred dollars from a relative. Matthews, a surveyor, platted the land into farm lots, town lots, wide streets, areas for churches and stores.  He recorded the plat on the flyleaf of the County Clerk's book at the courthouse in Corsicana and called the new town...Spring Hill, Texas.  He may have named it after a community in his native Maury Co. Tennessee.  And...Maury County had a Richland Creek.

Spring Hill, Texas grew.  There were blacksmith shops, wheelwrights, a cotton gin, a rock quarry, a saddle shop, a flour mill, several saloons, drug stores, a school, post office, a brick kiln, and a lodge hall. Spring Hill had the distinction of having at least one building consisting of a wood pole frame covered with Buffalo hide. The structure was situated on three and one-half acres deeded on April 26, 1874 by Robert Harve Matthews and witnesed by F A McSpadden and T J Haynes.  The building was used as a church and as a school which Matthews suggested be called..Spring Hill Academy.  Spring Hill had truly come into its own.

The 1880's ushered in the Age of the Railroad and the steel ribbons were to be seen in almost every area of Texas.  The Texas and St. Louis Railroad had laid track to Corsicana and was seeking to establish a route from Corsicana to Waco. Robert Harve Matthews, now sixty-six years old...still unmarried..was a large land owner  in the Spring Hill area.  The story handed down was that "Uncle Harve" placed a ruler on a map and drew a line from Corsicana to Waco and that the line went "smack" in the middle of Spring Hill, Texas...his town.  "Uncle Harve" probably had visions of making millions of dollars selling the right of way and continuing to develop Spring Hill.

What "Uncle Harve" didn't know was that the sons of Britton Dawson and a lawyer from Corsicana whose name was Sam Frost were busy negotiating with the railroad.   They were wanting the railroad to be constructed approximately three miles south of Spring Hill, and they were offering " free right of way" to the Railroad.   And..that was where the railroad went.

The railroad crossed the creek at a point in the Akers Bottom, well south of Spring Hill, and moved west just north of the two story home Britton Dawson had built on his place twenty years earlier.  When the rail lines reached a few miles west of the Dawson home a new town had been platted and lots were ready to be sold.  The first lots were sold July 21, 1881. The new town was called Dawson. Dawson was off and running...and Spring Hill began to die.

Lots sold at a brisk pace the first day of the sale and not a few were purchased by residents and merchants of Spring Hill.  The rapid residential construction quickly brought construction of all manner of stores and services.  R. B. Marsh moved his drug store from Spring Hill.  Brit Dawson's daughter, Mandy, and her husband, J. S. Dickson, opened a dry goods store. J. M. Johnson, an early merchant of Spring Hill, moved his store to Dawson. Two Spring Hill doctors set up a new practice in Dawson.  Even the Spring Hill Masonic Lodge was moved to Dawson in 1884.  Robert Harve Matthews recognized that Dawson was to be the area's center of commerce and even made the move to Dawson himself.  He built a large two story home just north of the business district and opened a store.

One document written by Joseph Calvin Matthews states,

"Sam R Frost made Deed to J N Matthews, J M Johnson, and A Cook
for The Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Dated  June 28th 1882
Recorded in vol 39  Page 620

This Presbyterian Church site was on the corner just South of the present day Baptist Church.  A Church building was constructed there, but moved later to its present site.

A Guidebook to the Texas & St. Louis Railway, 1883, reported that Dawson, Texas, located 21 miles from Corsicana and 35 miles from Waco, had a population of about 800 and that real estate values had increased 100%.  J A Davis, Justice of the Peace, stated that 275 deeds had been recorded from December 1882-August 1883. The Dawson Masonic Institute, a graded public school under the direction of Prof. E J L Wyrick, had enrolled more than 125 pupils. The new building had cost $5,000.00.   The town had ruled against the sale of liquor and never had a saloon.

The Dawson BANNER, a weekly newspaper, was edited by C H Hanson. Residential lots sold for $30-$50, business lots were $200-$400. Unimproved land was selling for $7.00 per acre.   Dawson had several gins and had shipped 3,000 bales of cotten in 1883.

1883 Dawson, also, boasted a "Splendid Coronet Band," a literary society, and a "good class" of business men.

The cotton oil mill was built in 1901.  Mainstream religious denominations constructed houses of worship. Schools were built and enlarged.  More residences were built to house the increasing population.

By l933, Spring Hill businesses had been reduced to the Spring Hill store located on the "Brushie" corner and Pete Bill's Blacksmith Shop across the street.  The Spring Hill School was located just north of the store and was used on a rotation basis by various church denominations for Sunday School and worship services.  Vacant lots had increased year after year as houses were moved, torn down, or burned.


Dawson was a bustling community with many activities.  The railroad station was the center of commerce, bringing in manufactured goods from all parts of the United States and of the world. Salesmen, "Drummers" they called them in those days for they were on the road to "Drum" up business...came to Dawson on the train, bringing samples of all manner of exciting merchandise..and sometimes, a few "raunchy" traveling salesmen stories that were whispered to men, always well out of earshot of Dawson's ladies.

Early newspapers recorded many special events organized by the citizens of the town.   There were lavish balls, complete with live music..and refreshments.  Churches always produced their share of exciting activities....revivals..."protracted meetings" they were sometimes called. There were young people's activities and "musicals."

Dawson was filled with businesses of all types common to the small towns that had sprung up along the railroads throughout the Lone Star State. Blacksmith shops were always a necessity and they were more than a "fixin' place" for farm equipment.  The blacksmith could do just about everything from shoe horses...sharpen plows..make a new axle for gas automobiles...make hinges for the garden gate..to making a toy for some child.

There were grocery stores and meat markets and bakeries  There was the harness shop with rows of saddles that straddled wooden "horses."  Bridles hung from hooks high on the walls.  And the smell of the tanned leathers at the harness shop was an adventure in itself.  There were "dry good" stores and "variety" stores, sometimes called "The Racket" Store. Later, Dawson could boast of automobile dealerships...and..a "So-de-water" plant just south of the Tabernacle and across the street from the small metal clad building that housed The Dawson Herald, the weekly newspaper owned, edited, and pujblished by F H Butler.

And..there were drug stores.  Drug stores were very important.  Yes, drugs were dispensed, but the real...the really important function...was the marble soda fountain that served delicious concoctions of every description.

There were ice cream sodas, malted milk shakes, Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper..ice cream sundaes..and banana splits.  And there was grape juice...not just plain everyday grape juice, but..Welsh's Grape Juice served over crushed ice in a Coca Cola glass.

It was at the drug store where young people gathered on Saturday nights for some preliminary "courtin'."  They sat on chairs made of heavy wire frames and a small round wooden


North Ireland to Richmond, Georgia
To Tennessee
To Alabama
To Mississippi
To Kentucky
To Illinois
To Western Navarro Co. Texas

Many of the families living in and around Dawson, Texas in the early 1930s were descendents of those who had come to the area before the arrival of the railroad and the founding of the Town of Dawson itself.  Many of their families had come to The Mexican Territory of Texas with Sterling Clack Robertson and settled between the Brazos and Trinity Rivers.   Some came first in 1831, men traveling on horseback from the Duck River of Middle Tennessee where they had been recruited after listening to Robertson tell of the wonders and opportunities of Mexican Texas.

Those who rode horseback in 1831 and those who followed were the sons and daughters of pioneers who had settled the Duck River area of Middle Tennessee during the first decade of the 1800s.   Their fathers had cleared the canebrakes that covered the land and established plantations where cotton had become King after Eli Whitney of Savannah, Georgia invented a machine to pull fibers from cottonseed.  Tons of baled cotton were loaded on small ships that moved North on the Tennessee River until the Ohio River was reached and then South on the Mississippi to New Orleans and the outside world.  The uninhabited and inexpensive land of 1805 was now filled with people and the price of land prohibited young  families from having what their fathers had created.  They followed the pattern of pioneer spirit that had brought their parents to Tennessee and moved themselves to new pioneer areas.

And where their parents from?  They had come...for the most part...from parts of Virginia and the Carolinas, especially from Augusta Co., Virginia..and Rowan Co., North Carolina.   One group had left Williamsburg Co., South Carolina in 1806 and had purchased 20,000 acres of land from the General Nathaniel Greene grant....land given to General Green for his service in the American Revolution.  Their parents and grandparents had settled those area in the 1700s.   Some were displaced Germans, some were Quakers, but most could trace their heritage to three or four counties of North Ireland.

Many had lived in the area where present day North Carolina,Virginia, and Tennessee converge and were part of the group of 3,000...some say 1200...who gathered on the Wautauga River banks under the Command of General Sevier. It was there that they listened to the fiery  sermon of  the Reverend Samuel Doak who had settled there as early as 1780.   The "Over the Mountain Men" were quiet as he closed his sermon with a stirring prayer that was remembered as they marched to The Battle of Kings Mountain and where they soundly defeated the British army.

Their parents and grandparents had migrated from Scotland and Wales in the late 1600s to an are in the North of Ireland where the British had driven Irish Lords from their lands.   They were pioneers whose descendents would settled the Eastern Seaboard of America in the early 1700s, the Mountains of North Carolina and the Hills of Kentucky in the 1780s, the Duck River of Tennessee in the early 1800s, and...Western Navarro County, Texas in the 1830s.

Records of family names found in 1600-1700 files of County Down and County Antrim in North Ireland...Ulster...are filled with many names found in the 1930 Telephone Directory of Dawson, Texas.  Names include Hill, Lawrence, Fullerton, McCandless, Wilson, Thompson, Davidson, Floyd, Harris, Shaw, Adams, Lyle, Dickson, Garner, Savage, Graham, Moore, McCullough, Hull, Barnes, Wright, Caskey, Matthews. and many more.

Some landed in America at Philadelphia,  moved Westward to Indian country and headed South down the Shenendoah Valley to spill over into Eastern Tennessee and  North Carolina.

Some landed at Charleston, settled in South Carolina for a time, particularly at the Scotch-Irish community of Williamsburg.

The term "Scotch-Irish" has been used for generations and many individuals believe they are of Irish descent because some older relative used the term to describe heritage.    These people were not Irish and would  for one second claim Irish blood.  These people were Scots...and Welch..and English....who lived for a century or more in North Ireland-Ulster.  When they came to America and were questioned as to their heritage they explained that they were Scots who had lived for several generations in Ireland.  That explanation took some time and the term "Scotch-Irish" was coined and has been used extensively for more than two hundred years.    These people were, as well, individuals who were strong Presbyterians who adhered to a Calvinistic theology that instilled high moral standards and an emphasis on literacy.  Right was right and wrong was wrong.     They had found battles in Ireland to protect their religious freedom and they would do the same in America.

They were, as well, fiercely loyal to William of Orange who had been their Protestant King of England and who had broken the siege at Londonderry. They were often referred to as "Billy Boys."   Many settled in the hills that rose on each side of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where they were known as "Those Billy Boys who lived in the Hills."    Their neighbors had coined still another name for these hardy pioneers...."Hillbillies!"    Their sons and their towns were given the name William.   Their daughters often the name "Orange."    Macca Orange McCandless came to Texas in 1835 from Tennessee, married Joseph Thompson Lawrence in 1847, moved to the headwaters of Richland Creek in 1856 where she lived...and died.

Some of the families moved frequently...and to what must have been in those days...far away places.  Some families came first to Charleston SC, to Rowan Co. NC, to Bourbon Co.  KY,  to Maury Co. TN, to Robertson's Colony, to Western Navarro Co. Texas.

Dread Dawson had come to Texas near 1818 from Alabama...or the Florida Panhandle...and his son, Brit Dawson, had settled in Western Navarro Co. Texas by 1847.    One reference to the Dawson Family had mentioned Greene Co. Georgia.   Research identified Greene Co. as having been formed from Richmond Co. Georgia and when a search was made of Richmond Co. pioneers, the names of Western Navarro Co. Texas pioneers appeared like Johnson Grass in the Akers Bottom.


The Dawson Family of Richmond Co. Georgia was there in a big way.   Brittain Dawson had died there in 1795 and was, apparently, one of the leaders of Low Country Georgia on the Savannah River.  Richmond Dawson had sold 114,000 acres of Ogechee River land in 1794 to a Mr. John Cobb, "later of  Philadelphia."    David Dawson had purchased 1000 acres of land on McBeans Creek.   Brittain Dawson had given a slave as a Christmas Gift to his new grandson William Arrington Bugg.   The deed date was December 26, 1885.

William Barron died there in 1790, but the name John Barron appeared in early Robertson County and the name appears as Commanding Officer on the bronze plaque at the entry of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame at Waco, Texas.     The Barron family was found early at Spring Hill.   Newt Barron married Alta Wheelock in the 1930s.

Dr. George Graves who died in 1820 lived in Richmond Co. Georgia with his wife, Mary.    Their children included:  Mary Ann, George, Caroline Cassandra, Thomas, John Baptist, Sarah, and Cloe Martha.  Siblings were Humphrey Graves and Cloe Graves.     There was a Thomas Graves with Robertson's Colony.   W T Graves and his family lie buried at Liberty Hill Cemetery.   Audie Graves married one of the Lawrence girls and lived in Dawson for many years.

John Sidwell married Catherine in 1782 and lived in Richmond Co.  Their children were Nathan, Mary, Hannah, James, and Sussanah.  A century later Warren Sidwell buries his wife and son at Spring Hill Cemetery and moves on West to begin a new life.

Robert Parrish has died at Campbellton, Richmond Co. Georgia in 1795.  Eaton Parrish and William Parrish were living in Maury Co. Tennessee in 1850.    Their mother, Mary, born 1775, lived with them.  Parrish families came to Western Navarro Co. Texas in the early 1850s with the Caskey and Adams families.   And who would ever forget the Robert Parrish who married Cleo Matthews, who accumulated considerable acreage at Spring Hill, and was often referred to as "The Mayor of Spring Hill, Texas."

Jean Hill was a widow in Richmond Co Georgia in 1820.  Her sons were James and George Hill.  Her grandchildren were Thomas and Sarah Hull.    Hull families were found in the middle 1800s at Maury Co. Tennessee and on the Blackland southeast of Dawson in the 1900s.

William Skinner lived in Richmond Co. Georgia in the early 1800s with his children.....John, Thomas, Leavington, Seaborn, and William.   They surfaced again in Tishomingo Co Mississippi in the 1850s, and in Western Navarro Co. Texas in the 1880s where Mabel Skinner married Houston Akers and where the Skinner Brothers Gin at Purdon was located.

John Love was a "Schoolmaster" at Augusta, Richmond Co. Georgia.    Members of the Love Family fought Indians as a part of Robertsons Colony and, later, served as lawmen for Navarro Co. Texas.

William C. Lawrence was an 1817 merchant at Augusta, Richmond Co. Georgia. William C. Lawrence was listed on General Sam Houston's list of those who fought at San Jacinto.

Henry McCullough married Sally Tally in Richmond Co. Georgia.   Two McCullough families, one at Liberty Hill, another at Spring Hill....settled Western Navarro Co. Texas

James Pendergast married Sally Rogers in Richmond Co. Georgia in 1784.   The Pendergast names appear again and again in Robertson's Colony.    George Rogers married one of Brit Dawson's daughters.   A granddaughter was names....Sally Mae.

The names of Turner.... Wilkerson... Wilson... Ward... Sykes... Currey... Culbreath.... were common Richmond Co. Georgia family names.

The name Currey was found several times on the Tax Records of Richmond Co. Georgia.    Alexander Currey, Robert Currey, William Currey.     One Mr. Curry married one of the Garner daughters in Mississippi and was already settled in Western Navarro Co. Texas when the main family arrived.

William Hoge served as an "Appraiser" in 1787 for the estate of John Matthews whose wife was Mary.  The Hoge Family was found in Maury Co. ennessee....later in Florence, Alabama, which is located just south of Maury Co. Tennessee.   William Elbert Hoge and Curt Taliaferro left the Florence area in the 1870s and headed for Dresden, Texas where his uncle, a Baptist preacher, lived.     Chris Taliaferro had married Sarah K Newby and they executed a deed in Richmond Co. Georgia in 1829.   Bettie Newby married John Martin Davidson and lived on the "Old Cowhead Road" just east of The Spring Hill Cemetery.

Robert and Amy Savage were there and their son, The Reverend Lovelace Savage, was pastor of the Baptist Church of Christ in 1788.    Charles Dawson had sold the site where the church had been built.  A century later, George Washington Savage, born 1826, arrived in Western Navarro Co. Texas...probably from Grayson Co. Texas via Missouri...and married a daughter of Macca Orange McCandless Lawrence.

And...would you believe that John Clemmons married Ann Wilson in Richmonds Co Georgia in 1798?  The Clemons and Wilsons and Graham families became institutions on The Blackland South of Dawson.

Wilson Calhoun married Rachael Triplett there in 1792.   Was he related to J D Calhoun  who lived for many years just South of the railroad and across from the cattle pens in Dawson.   His was the only house in Dawson with a basement.

John Cook, a blacksmith, has married Elizabeth Bins in 1797.      Susanna Cook, born in 1791, was a widow living in Maury Co. Tennessee in 1830 with sons Patrick and Felix.   A W Cook was named Robertson Co. Surveyor in 1838 and two Cook families lived in early Spring Hill, Texas.    Walter Cook married Jimmy Akers and had two sons....John Cook and W. M. Cook.

H. Silbert Dry Goods was an institution in Dawson from the 1890s through the 1930s.    Michael Silbert lived in Richmond Co. Georgia in 1817 with his wife, Mary.    His children were Joseph Silbert, Julian Silbert, Thomas, Silbert.    A daughter, Elizabeth Silbert, had married Nathan Leeds.   This Richmond Co. Georgia family appeared to be Jewish as was H. Silbert who had arrived in Dawson in 1895.

Hugh Fullerton had married Rebecca Dove there in 1799 and was, probably, a brother or uncle of Henry Fullerton who did not leave Ireland until c1818.      Henry Fullerton was said to have lived for a time in South Carolina before migrating to Texas in c1830.   Nancy Walker, sister of Elizabeth Walker who was the first wife of Brit Dawson, married Henry Fullerton, Jr.     They settled at Liberty Hill c1859 and had a large family.     The Dove name surfaces in Navarro Co Texas in the name of Nellie Dove Terry, daughter of Herod H. Terry whose wife's maiden name may have been Dove.    Nellie Dove Terry married Robert Daws Wright of the Liberty Hill Wrights.

John Flint married Margaret Butler at Richmond Co. Georgia in 1807.  David Flynt operated the Porter's Bluff ferry in the 1850s.    Porter's Bluff was located near the Navarro Co-Ellis Co line on the Trinity River in an area known early at "The Buffalo Crossng."     Several Flynt families lived in Dawson.    John Flynt married Sadie Lawrence, a daughter of Uncle Billy Lawrence whose Mother had been Emily Dawson.    F H Butler, long the editor of The Dawson Hearld, did not arrive until c1900.

Mann Sims and Andrew G Sims were living in Richmond Co Georgia in 1786, Frederick and Ben Sims in 1798.   Benjamin Sims was found in Lincoln Co. Tenn,  J Fred Sims was born 1854 in Maury Co. Tennessee, came to Texas in the 1870s, and with his brother, owned a gin in Dawson.

TheSpence Family lived in four adjacent Georgia counties in 1820 and they migrated from there to Illinois.     David Spence, born 1840 at Cask Co. Illinois, came to Texas with his father, W P Spence.  David Spence married Elizabeth Dawson, daughter of Brit Dawson.

The Wells Family was in Richmond Co. Georgia.   Benjamin Wells had died and left his widow, Mary. Humphrey Wells, "Practitioner of Physic, " lived with his wife, Abigail, next door to the church in Augusta.

The Dawson Family has been traced to Western Navarro Co. Texas from George to Alabama to the Sabine River area of Texas...to Robertson's Colony.   The Spence family was traced from Richmond Co. Georgia to Illinois..to Robertson's Colony...to Western Navarro Co. Texas.   The Silbert Family of Richmond Co. Georgia...must......have been ancestors of H. Silbert of Dawson.   The Fullertons of Richmond Co. Georgia..must...have been related to the Fullertons of Liberty Hill.

And add the names of Loveless, Walker, Hill, and Wright to the list.   All Richmond Co. Georgia families in the 1790-1820 era....found later in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and possibly in Missouri....who migrated eventually...to Western Navarro Co. Texas.

It is more than coincidence!

"I Remember Hubbard City, Texas"
Carl W "Tubby" Matthews Jr.


The Great Depression was supposed to have been at an end in 1940, but, somehow, the word had missed Hubbard City, Texas.    Cotton "choppin'" was still $1.00 per day and younger teenagers commanded ten cents per hour working in the grocery stores.  Older boys earned fifteen to twenty cents per hour and men with families had paychecks of less than twenty dollars for a week that included sixty to seventy hours.

There were, however, admitted tradeoffs.    Admission to Chester Neece's "Picture Show" was still a dime and one dollar would purchase a pair of khaki pants at Sam Tobolowsky' s store.  Rosa Hernandes had the best nickel chilidog in all of Texas.  Bull Durham and Dukes Mixture, complete with papers, were a nickel per bag and the matches were free.

Dollars in the pockets of farm boys had dwindled to quarters by Christmas and by late spring even nickels were scarce or non-existent.   It was in the spring that the inspiration for earning money with musical talent surfaced.    Royce B. Reaves, Gene Suddeth, and I had been having great fun playing musical instruments together and someone said that we had a "Band."

Royce had been a "professional musician" since he was about seven.      His chubby face, barely visible over the huge guitar that he played, belted out favorite tunes like "Old Shep" and traditional Gospel songs to "Church Sangin's," town "Musicals." "Talent Contests," and "Medicine Shows."   Royce was a "Musical Institution" by the time he graduated from Dover and came to High School at Hubbard.

Gene had always wanted a Banjo and in one of Gene's weaker moments, some Hubbard entrepreneur sold him one.     The only problem was that he couldn't play it. Royce and Gene became "Buddies" and, together,  they determined how to tune that Banjo and began to locate finger positions that would produce chords compatible with those Royce played on the guitar.

My family had moved to Hubbard from Dawson in the summer of 1939 and my home was near where Mr. Floyd Raley lived.  Mr. Raley was a well known country "fiddler" who had known myfamily for many years and whose sons became skilled musicians.   Randall Raley became a music professor at Hardin Simmons University and played with the Ft. Worth Symphony.   I visited the Raleys most every day and listened to Mr. Raley as he played his fiddle.  Time passed and he began to teach me some of what he knew about "fiddlin'" and, after a few weeks, I was playing simple tunes.    I was thrilled!

My real thrill came one afternoon when Mr. Raley announced that he had a surprise for me and he pulled out an old fiddle that his sons had played many years before.    Hardened Lepage's Glue could be seen between the cracks on the back.   The neck had, apparently broken off at some point and more Lepage's Glue was evident in the repair.     The bow had lost most of its hair and had a distinctive curve "toward the Jones Place," but I was "Proud as Punch" with my fine new instrument.  I had no case, but I always wrapped it carefully in a flour sack.

I mentioned to Gene that I had been playing the fiddle with Mr. Raley and he invited me to sit in with him and Royce.    I had never played with "professionals" before and tried to do my best, but Mr. Raley had not taught me anything about "chords" or "notes."     I just played "by Ear" and when Royce yelled at me for changing "Chords" in the middle of "Over The Waves" I had no idea what he was talking about.

Gradually, the three of us got our act together.    My fiddle carried the lead and Gene and Royce attempted to follow....as best they could!      I would begin a tune in B-Flat and finish playing in "C-Sharp" or somewhere.    Royce accused me of "playing in the unknown tongue" and Gene chorded his banjo and hummed,  "Wherever He Leads I'll go."

Somewhere about that time we discovered that there were things in life more important than guitars and banjos and fiddles.....Girls!   And...being the musicians that we were we sought out...and found....girls with musical talent.   I had met a cute little girl who played a pretty good guitar, sang beautifully, and her mother made a "mean Chocolate cake."    Her name was Zoette Vardeman.  Her Father and Mother sang and we enjoyed some great "jam sessions"  at the Vardeman house. The cake wasn't bad, either.

Gene, in the meantime, cast his eye and ear and heart in the direction of Adel Horn who could sing and yodel and laugh and possessed a mischievous smile.    They celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary  several years ago.   Adel is still singing and yodeling and laughing and still has that mischievous smile.

Royce, somehow,  never did take up to a girl with real musical talent.    Now that may not be exactly true.   There were several girls who played "musical chairs" with Royce and we never knew  from one week to the   next which girl would land in his lap.

We began to play on Thursday mornings at the High School , at the Lions Club luncheon meeting at the Methodist Church, and once, we entered a "Talent Contest" at the Community building and won First Place.  Someone said that really wasn't anything to brag about because we were the only ones who entered.   We lost, later, to a one arm man who played a musical saw.

And...we played for a country dance or two.   Now that was exciting!    We could feel the old vacant country houses bounce to the beat and the mixed aroma of kerosene from the lanterns, Ben Hur perfume on the sweaty bodies, stale beer, and Italian Girl wine was unforgettable.

We were now ready for the "Big Time!"It was Springtime and none of us had any money.   When we broke a ten cent string on one of our instruments we were immediately in the midst of a financial calamity.  Dates were limited to musicals at some home, Sunday evening at church, and, on rare occasions, a triple date in Mr. Reeve's 1938 Ford powered with "tractor gas" and equipped with some device that guided the vehicle to The "74" School House.

The "74" School House was a well known ...uh... recreation area which had become famous for "raslin'" matches, games of "Post Office" and "Pony Express," and where girls sometimes teased boys about being foreigners because they had Roman eyes and Russian hands.   "Post Office" was an old fashioned game widely accepted by most all young people.  "Pony Express" was a lot like "Post Office," but  involved a little more "horsin'" around.    Sometimes, when things became dull, Royce, Gene, and I would  remove our instruments from the trunk of the car and strike up a tune or two.

Bob Wills had named his band, "The Texas Playboys," and if Bob Wills had a name for his band, it was time we had a name for for ours.    Harold Crews was, at times, credited with providing the name, but Gene remembers otherwise.  Gene remembered that it was in the Reeves  cotton field where he and Royce were chopping cotton and thinking about a name for the band.   Chopping cotton provides a lot of time for meditation and in one inspired moment the name, probably, appeared across the sky...."Royce Reeves and his Ramblin RowHoers."     It was, probably, very, very hot that day.

A "Financial Calamity" must have existed one day as I day dreamed in the Study Hall of Hubbard High School and became inspired with the thought of having our "Band" play for some money the following Saturday.   My "Indian Chief" tablet was soon filled with the names of businesses located on Main Street, beginning with Tobolowsky's Store and listing one business after another.    Royce Reeves and his "Rollin' RowHoers", would offer their professional musical talents to Hubbard businesses.  Professional Musical services were to be offered in fifteen-minute blocks at a cost of twenty-five cents per block.   I could barely wait for school to end and I could race to downtown Hubbard  to have businesses sign up.

Sam Tobolowsky, our first prospect, wanted two slots....fifty cents worth. Jones Brothers Grocery wanted two.   WOW!   Down the street  we went...Terrell's Cafe, Schwartz Dry Goods, Keitt Drug Store, Rip Priddy's, Hunt's Grocery, Logan's Cafe, Safeway, and  Creamland.   Our excitement was high and 2:00 pm on Saturday   seemed years away.

It was 1:30 pm when we gathered on the corner by Tobolowsky's Store. "We" included the three boys plus Zoette Vardeman, Adele Horn, and whatever girl Royce had on his lap at the time.  We began to play and a small group of  the Saturday afternoon crowd began to gather to listen.   We completed the Tobolowsky gig, collected our fifty cents and moved on down the street.   Sometimes, business were so "overwhelmed"  with our talent that they requested us to play an additional fifteen minutes...for another quarter.

Heber Logan had us come into his restaurant and play, rather than play on the street, and we felt like we were on our way to becoming "The NEW  Bob Wills Band."

The peak of the experience came with our "gig" at Creamland.   We had a large group of fans by that time and they followed us inside, a situation that pleased the Creamland management to no end.  When we had played our contracted time and began to go, "Too Tall" Vaughn told us to stay put and began passing his hat among the crowd.  The nickels and dimes jingled and jangled and "The Band Played ON!"

Later that night, the six of us gathered in a booth at Logan's Cafe to count the "Loot" collected and to enjoy the fruits of our first...and last...professional musical experience.  The world beyond Hubbard, Texas was already in turmoil and the events of the coming months would affect all of our lives.  Little did we know that the following Spring that I would be in Pago Pago, Samoa and soon after that Gene would be in India and Royce was somewhere with the U S Army.

More than fifty years have passed, but today, when I hear "Chinatown, My Chinatown," "Whispering," "The New San Antonio Rose,"  I think about the Main Street of Hubbard, Texas and those "Professional Musicians" who played on the street that Spring day in 1941.


It sat in the middle of the field, surrounded by new blades of spring grass that had poked through the black soil several miles southeast of Dawson.  "It" was a 1940 Ford Pickup and the field belonged to Mr. John Merideth whose family had come early to Western Navarro Co. Texas.    My Dad had looked at and agreed to purchase fifty white faced steers owned by Mr. Merideth and pastured up the road from the main house near where the 1940 Pickup sat.

I was finishing my first year at Baylor, and was home for the weekend, a practice that was a mistake.   I had made the Dean's List the previous quarter, the one that wasn't announced in home town papers.

I had sold my 1934 Ford Tudor to Roger Webb Smith for $400. the week before and I was desperate for transportation.   When I inquired about the Pickup Mr. Merideth responded by saying that it had burned the previous summer and hand not been moved.  The rusting cab and hood gave evidence that what Mr. Merideth had said was true.  He saw the Pickup as a pile of junk, but it had a new motor and new transmission and was worth something.   $300. he said, and if the motor would not run he would give my money back.   Deal!   My Dad didn't speak all the way home.

The following weekend I placed an old quilt over the burned seat springs and steered it as someone towed me to Dwight Norris's Garage  just north of Weatherby's Ford Dealership.   I do believe that everyone in Hubbard thought the shell that exploded in the Pacific in 1944 had affected more than my ear drum.    The longer it sat behind Dwight Norris's Garage the worse it looked.    If I had bought a lemon I needed to quickly begin making lemonade.

One day Dwight decided to see if the monster would crank.  The burned wires were replaced, the oil was changed, a battery installed.    The "Push Button" starter had burned, but Dwight exposed the wires and connected them briefly when he was ready to try to crank.   Wow!  The motor cranked and purred like a kitten.  Well...sort of.  Dwight quickly tried the transmission.  Yep, it worked as well.  The door mechanisms were drenched in oil, but remained very temperamental.  The tires appeared in good shape.  I had transportation and  I drove it home with pride.

That summer, I hooked the Pickup to the two wheeled trailer that Daddy used to haul cattle to the little slaughter house across the creek from Enoch Wilson's place and went to Mr. Merideth to bring three of the steers to Hubbard.   A Black Boy who went by the name of "Doughbelly" and was always of the streets of Hubbard went with me.    I had removed the temperamental doors several days earlier.   "Doughbelly" and I loaded the three steers into the trailer and headed for Hubbard.   We were moving along at a good clip when the trailer began to sway and the three steers were adding their two tons to the swaying.  I was prepared for the Pickup to turn over and Doughbelly was already thinking of baialaing out through the door opening.

I quickly shifted into Second Gear and "Put the Pedal to the Metal" just as we started up a a small hill and the trailer straightened.   The Pickup moved slowly through Dawson and on to Hubbard.

I replaced the rotted wood of the Pickup bed with new two inch material and began to use the Pickup to haul beef carcasses from the slaughter house to the ice house where Dad had rented cooler space.   I, also, began to use it to deliver meat to restaurants and grocery stores in Waco and....use the trip for an opportunity to visit a cute girl who lived on Waco's North side.   I would park in the alley so as not to embarrass anyone.   It was about that time that a terrible odor began to appear in the Pickup.   I could find nothing, but one day Mother...noticing the odor...discovered that one of the workers had wrapped a pound or so of brains in a paper bag and forgot about it.

One day I had delivered all the meat orders and was on my way to Waco's North side, discovered that I had no brakes and sailed through a red light without incident, through a service station bay and back into the street.  I could not shift down for I was already in low gear.   Just as I reached the street a family driving their new 1946 Olds was passing another car and came on my side of the street...and I into the side of their new Olds.   Now a new car in 1946 was a thing to be prized and I will never forget the look
that the man's wife gave me.   I apologized and gave the man $20.   One of the brake hoses had ruptured... from age or the fire... or both.   I had it replaced at the station.

The girl who lived on Waco's North side and her friend, who had dated Sam Akers of Dawson, wanted to go to Galveston for a week of vacation .   Sam and  I decided to go to with them.   The girls had funds for a hotel, but Sam and I didn't.  We assembled bedrolls, tied a cow rope across the Pickup door openings, hung an iron skilled and a kerosene lantern on the side, and filled a "grub box" with bacon, canned beans, etc.  We found the girls when we arrived in Galveston and cooked steaks on the beach that night.  Sam and I carried the girls back to the hotel and returned to the beach and went to sleep.  The rain came at 3:00 am.   We put our bedrolls in the cab and drove to a closed service station to take advantage of their canopy.  We were sleeping soundly when the owner of the station arrived..and told us to move on.

Tom Prince had wrecked his new 1946 Ford Pickup and I bought the damaged cab for $100.   I had one new doors, new seats, new wiring, speedometer, etc.  Steve Leary had arrived from Ahoskie, North Carolina for a visit and it was he who solved the mysteries of where all those wires were to go and Dwight Norris's brother-in-law repaired the little body damage that showed.   We had time to have a primer coat sprayed over the entire Pickup before Steve and I left for his Uncle's place at Port Isabel on the Gulf Coast.

The monster ran great!   That is...until we were well into an isolated stretch of hiway in the middle of the King Ranch.   It was there that the monster died.    It had been running great and Steve and I checked and rechecked all that we knew to check.   The hiway was deserted and we had seen few cars all morning.   We waited.   Finally, we saw a car coming from the North...and the man stopped to help.   He checked what we had already checked...nothing.  He was getting in his car and decided to try one more thing.  He felt of the wire to the coil.  We had checked it and it was connected.  However, he discovered that someone had attempted to tighten the connection with an ill fitting nut and the connection was not snug.  He tightened it down and we were running again.

We enjoyed the hospitality at Port Isabell for a great week... deep sea fishing, a trip to Matamoras, Mexico, and food prepared by the Mexican cook.   Our next destination was Houston.

My sister, Jean, was in Houston visiting  Dolores Atchison, a relative of Joe Mack Pless and who visited in Hubbard most every summer.   Steve and I were to stay with Mahlon Foster in an apartment.  We had driven to Houston in the cool of the night and arrived at  Mahlon's about noon.  It was August and Houston was HOT when I left Steve in the Pickup while I searched for Mahlon.   When I returned, Steve was fit to be tied.  He was mopping his "sweating" brow, muttering something about never coming back to Texas... and several other comments.    We showered and slept the afternoon.

Ina Ray Hutton and her "All Girl Band" was playing at one of the Plantation night club and we had planned to attend that evening.   Steve and I dressed in our two-toned shoes, bow ties, and sport coats and drove the monster to pick up Jean and Dolores.   All was going well until the Monster decided to die...again!   This time we were on one of Houston's busiest streets and in the inside lane.   Off came our sport coats and Steve and I began to push as Jean attempted to steer the Monster out of the street.   The heat and the situation had not given Steve or me the best attitude and to make matters worse, Jean and Dolores were cracking up over what had happened.   I didn't think that it was funny...not that funny.

We restarted the Monster and drove to the club.   We bailed out of the Monster and headed to the air conditioned comfort of the club, leaving the Monster in the hands of the parking attendant who had viewed the Monster with disdain.

We were beginning to cool when the public address system came on with an announcement.  "Will the party driving a Ford Pickup please come to the valet parking desk.   The attendant has been unable to stop the engine."   I had forgotten to instruct the attendant to disconnect the wires.

The next trip, after I had painted the Monster a bright red, was to Decatur, Texas.  Joe Mack Pless and I went there to check out the college where we would attend and be room mates that fall.  By that time I had spotted a 1940 Ford Coupe that I wanted to purchase. The next week one of the Summerland boys offered me $875. for the Monster and I persuaded myself to accept.  It was like losing an old friend.


Dawson was a bustling community with many activities.  The railroad station was the center of commerce, bringing in manufactured goods from all parts of the United States and of the world. Salesmen, "Drummers" they called them in those days for they were on the road to "Drum" up business...came to Dawson on the train, bringing samples of all manner of exciting merchandise..and sometimes, a few "raunchy" traveling salesmen stories that were whispered to men, always well out of earshot of Dawson's ladies.

Early newspapers recorded many special events organized by the citizens of the town.   There were lavish balls, complete with live music..and refreshments.  Churches always produced their share of exciting activities....revivals..."protracted meetings" they were sometimes called.  There were young people's activities and "musicals."

Dawson was filled with businesses of all types common to the small towns that had sprung up along the railroads throughout the Lone Star State.  Blacksmith shops were always a necessity and they were more than a "fixin' place" for farm equipment.   The blacksmith could do just about everything from shoe horses...sharpen plows..make a new axle for gas automobiles...make hinges for the garden gate..to making a toy for some child.

There were grocery stores and meat markets and bakeries  There was the harness shop with rows of saddles that straddled wooden "horses."  Bridles hung from hooks high on the walls.  And the smell of the tanned leathers at the harness shop was an adventure in itself.  There were "dry good" stores and "variety" stores, sometimes called "The Racket" Store. Later, Dawson could boast of automobile dealerships...and..a "So-de-water" plant just south of the Tabernacle and across the street from the small metal clad building that housed The Dawson Herald, the weekly newspaper owned, edited, and pujblished by F H Butler.

And..there were drug stores.  Drug stores were very important.  Yes, drugs were dispensed, but the real...the really important function...was the marble soda fountain that served delicious concoctions of every description.   There were ice cream sodas, malted milk shakes, Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper..ice cream sundaes..and banana splits.   And there was grape juice...not just plain everyday grape juice, but..Welsh's Grape Juice served over crushed ice in a Coca Cola glass.

It was at the drug store where young people gathered on Saturday nights for some preliminary "courtin'."  They sat on chairs made of heavy wire frames and a small round wooden seat.  The small tables were, also, made of the heavy wire frames.   Later, the drug stores modernized and had heavy tables with glass tops and a swinging seat attached to each of the corners.  The tables were covered with heavy glass that displayed merchandise....comb and brush sets, hand mirrors, cosmetics,"Ben Hur" parfum, Brilliantine hair oil,

Jim Martin and Spart Berry owned "mule barns" located just south of the railroad track.  Dawson was smack in the middle of cotton country and mules were a necessity.   Local mules were bought and sold, but some mules were shipped into Dawson on the railroad cars.

Ice was shipped to Dawson from Corsicana or Hubbard and stored in large rooms with walls heavily insulated with cottonseed hulls. Several steps led from the dirt street to the porch of the ice house that offered crude benches for workers.. and for others who "hung around" when they had nothing else to do.  Blocks of ice weighed three hundred pounds and the "ice men" were strong backed men who met the public with smiles.  "Ice men" were celebrities of sorts who wore heavy leather aprons on their backs and drove "ice wagons" up and down the streets of Dawson. "Ice wagons" were special wagons with a seat high above the front wheels and were usually painted with bright colors.  Signs were painted by near artists on each side that announced to the public the name of the establishment.

"Ice wagon" horses were always dressed in the most colorful harness available.   Hames were topped with large, brightly polished brass balls with red tassels sometimes attached.  Bridles included "blinders" on the side of each eye, designed to keep the beautiful animals from being distracted.  "Ice house" horses always wore "breechin," a special harness that fitted over the rear of the horses and was a means of braking the wagon when the "ice man" called "Whoa!"  "Ice Wagon" horses were very smart.  They moved forward and stopped on voice command from the "ice man" who stood on a little platform that hung from the rear of the wagon.

Most people did without ice until really warm...iced tea weather.. arrived.  The "ice men" served the business district first thing every morning and then began a regular route throughout the residential areas of the town. Printed l2 X l2 cards bearing large numbers..25,50,75,100... were given to each customer..as were free ice picks bearing the company name.  The cards could be rotated to indicate the pounds of ice needed and were placed in front windows of homes so the ice man could see from the street just how much ice to leave.

It was thrilling to watch as the iceman pulled a large three hundred pound block of ice from the front of the wagon to the rear and..with the skill of an artist...cut the ice with his ice pick..into the desired sizes.  Metal ice hooks bit into the ice and the ice carried into the homes on the iceman's back, his back protected by the heavy leather apron.

Ice men were always in a rush.  Consequently, they never knocked on the doors of homes as they entered. Instead, they called out in a loud voice...."ICE MAN!"...as they came through the door.  Women of the house scurried for cover if they were not properly dressed.  Sometimes... the ice man was faster than they had expected.  Such experiences were sometimes related to male groups who gathered on the icehouse porch in the late afternoons.  And..there were some hushed stories about "The Ice Man" and some of the children born in the community.

Doctors offices were usually located on the second floor of buildings in Dawson...probably, so no one could peek through windows while the doctor was conducting an examination...especially in summer when every window was required to be wide open to catch any breeze that might blow.

The hardware store was almost as important to the community as was the blacksmith shop....not only to the farmers, but to townspeople as well.  Hardware stores stocked all manner of bolts and screws, knives, saws, pitchforks, horse collars, firearms and ammunition, washtubs, hammers,...etc.

The hardware store, also, often served as mortuary.  Bodies were placed in simple pine boxes custom built by whoever worked at the hardware store.  Early burials were without embalming and funerals were held quickly following death.  When a funeral was delayed for whatever reason during warm weather it was common for the body to be placed in the icehouse for a few days.

Funeral coaches were elaborate and ornate carriages custom built for that purpose.   Some had large plate glass windows on either side that placed the casket in full view.  Seating for two was high above the front wheels...for the driver and his assistant.  Black ribbons were often draped from each side, complete with large bows.   Fresh flowers...if they were available locally..were often placed on top of the coach when the procession moved from the church to the cemetery.

Nate Wright had one of the old coaches in his barn until the early thirties.    It was then that his son, Neil and Fred Jr. Matthews hitched some horses to it and wrecked it.


Churches were a most important part of the Town of Dawson.  Religious life was serious business for most citizens and only the reprobates and the "ner-do-wells" failed to find their way to Sunday Services.  Preachers were always well respected and given a place of honor in the community.  "Preacher Pay", however, did not often reach such lofty heights.  Some preachers did not tarry long in Dawson.

The Methodist Church was located in "The Frog Level" part of town..two or three blocks south of the railroad tracks, nestled in a beautiful grove of large oak trees.   The Methodist parsonage was located one block north.

The Baptist Church was located several blocks north of the railroad and was one block east of Main Street.  The Great Awakening had given Baptists a boost and membership in that denomination was expanding rapidly. Baptist "Evangelists" appeared regularly in the Baptist Churches, often bringing with them individuals gifted in leading congregational singing.  The Baptist were, as well, strong on organized "Sunday Schools," a fact that contributed to growth of the congregations.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church which had been brought to Dawson by many of the families who had settled there from Southern Middle Tennessee was first located on North main street on the corner just South of where the Baptist Church is presently located.   The building was later moved one block east of Main Street just north of the business district.  The Presbyterians were never as aggressive or as evangelistic as the Baptist and Methodist, but their group always included many of the movers and shakers of the community.

The Church of Christ was a block or so north of the Baptist Church. The church didn't have a piano, but they always had several high powered singers.  Members of other denominations often referred to the group as "Camelites," and members of the Church of Christ seemed to resent being called such.  Turned out that they were really followers of Alexander Campbell who had begun a new Christian church in Tennessee which emphasized baptism by immersion and prohibition against musical instruments in the worship services.

And Dawson had a Tabernacle...built in 1903... that was utilized by all denominations.   The Tabernacle was located just east of the business district across from the Presbyterian Church and along the banks of a little branch that ran through the town.   The Tabernacle was a large open-sided structure with a raised platform on the south end.  Revivals and "Protracted Meetings" usually brought out the troops from all the church groups with the exception of the "Camelites."  They usually kept pretty well to themselves.

The platform at the tabernacle was for the choir, the religious leaders from the various congregations, and, of course, the visiting dignitaries.  The "Song Heister"began recruitment of the choir as quickly as people began to arrive.   Women were easily recruited, but recruiting men was a real work of art.   Everyone in town knew pretty well what men would take their places in the choir, but some men would play the game of"Hold out to the last minute."    The "Song Heister" would use every tactic to move the male "singer" from the congregation to the choir, but "Mr. Hold-out" would rear back and put a silly grin on his face as he looked at his girl friend or his wife.   Finally, he would....appearing reluctant...stand painfully to his feet...move slowly to the choir area...and the seat of Musical Honor where he wanted to be in the first place.

The Tabernacle, also, served...at times, for other functions.  Once, when Dawson had a big 4th of July Parade and Rodeo, the Tabernacle was used as a large dining hall where people ate a free bar-b-que meal.  The Tabernacle was sometimes used for political rallies.  And..it was said that some of the older boys walked their girlfriends through the Tabernacle on dark nights hoping to teach the girls to play the game called "Pony Express."  Someone said that  Pony Express was a game that was a little like "Post Office" except it involved a little more "horsing" around.

And...Dawson had a school.  The first buildings were small and of wood frame, but they were centers of learning.  Dawson, also, boasted in l882...THE DAWSON MASONIC INSTITUTE, apparently a private school operated by W.T.Westmoreland.  The school had a principal and, at least, one teacher.

Most residences were constructed of wood frame with wood siding and solid wood interior walls, covered, usually, with wall paper.  The ceilings, as well, were covered with wood boards covered with wall paper.  Less expensive homes were "box houses," that utilized one by twelve "Box" lumber to form the inside and outside wall..and, erected vertically carrying the weight of the roof as well as well as serving as the wall.  Cracks between the one by twelve boards were covered with one by two wood "bats."  Roofs were covered with wood shingles.  Many of the "Box houses" had no ceilings and had eight foot partitions similar to outside walls.


The "water system" was one of three.  Many families had shallow wells which were dug by hand to a point below the waterline. Wells were sometimes lined with rock, but many were open to the raw earth sides. Wells lined with rock often continued the rock to a point thirty or so inches above ground.  Most other wells had a wooden box that surrounded the hole.  Heavy post were positioned on each side of the well and connected with another heavy timber.   A pulley was attached....usually with "bailin' wore."  A heavy rope was threaded through the pulley, tied to a heavy bucket..and the water system was complete.

Dug wells, also, served as refrigerators.  Some ingenious husbands would build boxes that could be lowered into the well that would keep butter and sweet milk and clabber and buttermilk several degrees cooler than the above ground temperature.  Deeper wells were cooler than those more shallow and, on a hot day, a drink of well water was most refreshing.

I went with my Daddy many times to the "home place" at Spring Hill where he was born and where he grew up.  His brother, Uncle Virgil, lived there.  Daddy always went through the same routine each time we returned. Daddy would greet Uncle Virgil and Aunt Oddy and then he would go to the well in back of the house..lower the bucket..let it dip into the cool water..pull the bucket slowly to the top of the well box.   Sometimes, Uncle Virgil would have a "gourd" dipper hanging nearby and Daddy would drink heartily.  He would always say,"Carl Jr., that's the best water in the world."  And, I guess it was.

Almost every home had a "tin cistern."   Tin Cisterns were large circular thin metal tanks...six to eight feet in diameter and eight to twelve feet high.   Gutters...wooden or metal..caught "rain water" as it flowed off the roofs of houses, through downspouts, and into the Tin Cisterns.

Dug wells and Tin Cisterns worked well until droughts came. but, sometimes, months would pass without measurable amounts of rain.  Farmers would first notice the absence of moisture and the topic of every conversation would have some reference to dry conditions.   A persistent drought would diminish water being held in the tin cisterns and dug wells would go dry.  Wooden sleds, loaded with a large wooden barrel would be pulled to the nearest stock tank or to the creek and filled with precious water.  Some droughts were longer than others, but, in the end...rain always came.

As Dawson grew, the need for some permanent water supply became acute and, at some point, a deep well was dug on a little branch south of town.  Everyone was hoping for a gusher of cold sweet water, but, instead,  the best that could be produced was an abundance of...very salty..water.  The salty water..was water..and pipes were laid throughout the community, primarily for fire safety.  The salt water was piped into many homes and the citizens of Dawson found many uses for it.  Cattle would drink the salt water and the water trough in the wagon yard south of the depot offered the salt water for many years.  Fresh water did not flow through the Dawson water system until the late thirties.

  Submitted by Carl W Matthews, Jr.

Navarro County TXGenWeb
Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox